Monday, 19 November 2012 (3032753)
Stone Age houses are discovered!
by David Raven
STONE Age records of the first native people in Britain has been found after archaeologists discovered three houses from nearly 8,000 years ago that could ‘rewrite the history books'.
Environment Agency officials were undertaking a project in Lunt Meadows to help clean water supplies but commissioned archaeology experts from the Museum of Liverpool to oversee any excavations.
Over the summer, several finds were made including the foundations of three houses preserved one meter underground, several tools, remains of camp fires and even nearby snacks such as hazelnut shells.
There are only three other sites of similar importance in the country and this is the only one based in the North West.
The finding is a first for archeologists, who have always assumed that Mesolithic man was nomadic, but this site presents the possibility that several families could have lived in just one place.
Radiocarbon dating that took place towards the end of last month proved the findings, based near Sefton Village church, dated back to around 5,800BC.
Around this time Britain had just separated from Northern Europe and become the island as we now know it - so these were amongst the first ever original Britons.
Curator of prehistoric archaeology at the Museum of Liverpool, Ron Cowell, is involved in the ongoing project and described the find as ‘of national importance'.
He told the Champion: “This is the earliest dated site we have found in the North West – which is from the time that our country first became an island so in many ways these are the first native people of Britain.
”We haven't even finished digging yet and we would need a lot more radiocarbon dates before we have a fully detailed picture but once that's through this will be one of the key historic sites in Britain.
“This will re-write the history books by showing people that our country's heritage long pre-dates the Norman and even Roman times.
”The Environment Agency were digging some channels and lagoons to help biodiversity in the Alt Valley to help with flooding and improving water quality.
“We have turned up the remains of what may well be three buildings or structures, two of which are going to be houses.
”Then within these areas there are remains of fires, hazelnut shells from meals and also a lot of stone tools.
“These people are hunter gatherers at this time in history. There is no farming, just mobile groups of people exploiting the landscape and moving around at different times of the year.
”What's significant about this site is that we may be looking at much more permanent dwellings so it looks like they could have settled in this area.
“I think also another big feature of the site is that we have the advantage that this was found below the ground so it has been preserved from ploughing and other activities.
”We have environmental evidence that shows we believe they were living on the edge of a swamp or a lake.
“Hopefully when we start looking in detail at these findings it will give us a much more complete picture of what kind of activities they were carrying out there.
”We found a whole range of tools ranging from working stone and microliths which are typical artifacts from that time which can be used for arrowheads or piercing tools.
“We have found for the first time in this area that non-flint tools made from stone with polished surfaces that may have been used to rub across materials for clothing.
”There has been so little really good evidence of these people that most of it is just theory.
The food quest would be a pretty big part of their lives, they are living down by the River Alt where you have a fairly predictable source of food.
“They will be eating wild animals in the surrounding forest, they would be fishing the water and wild birds and plants would also have been very important to their survival depending on the time of year.
”The homes look like a family would comfortably fit in them and they were hollowed out in the sand as if they are using the place as natural shelter.
“There would have been wooden stakes that would have held the roof up but this kind of material doesn't really survive.”
The archaeological artefacts found on site will be catalogued and kept for safe keeping by Liverpool Museum.